By Katey Garrett

St. Paul's eighth grade student and Exeter resident, Chris Wong, celebrated a victory at the Tulare County spelling bee last week, when he correctly spelled the word &#8220peril” in the 15th round, earning himself numerous awards and the title of Spelling Bee Champion of 2007.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary from Merriam-Webster, one of Wong's prizes, defines the word &#8220peril” as a risk and exposure to injury. Indeed, Wong risked it all by exposing himself possible injury of his pride. But ever so calm, Wong took a deep breath, spelled the word and smiled in his mother's direction.

Despite the fierce competition, including the 2005 and 2006 spelling bee champion, Evan Lawler, Wong did not falter as tension grew in the Holiday Inn when the competition entered the higher rounds.

During a break that took place after the fourth round, several of the 155 students ranging from fourth to eighth grades, studied while Wong chatted with his mother, Christine.

&#8220I feel pretty confident,” said Wong, as he enjoyed his break. &#8220I am spelling the words in my head while other people spell them out loud and I'm getting most of them right.”

Spelling Bee officials stated that in the past eight years, the competition had never lasted so long. As the competition entered the 15th round, officials stopped using the list students had studied from and began using much more difficult words from an advanced list.

Although Wong was not familiar with the advanced list, he began asking for the origin and definition of words and eventually, his tireless studying and effort paid off.

&#8220I studied off the Spell it! List,” said Wong. &#8220There were about 700 words and I had other people quiz me so that I could memorize them.”

Son of Exeter's R-N Market's manager, Wade, Wong said that spelling is not the only subject he enjoys. The Math-Olympia participant said that although spelling is fun, he feels most challenged by mathematics.

&#8220Math is my favorite subject,” said Wong. &#8220I just spell for fun.”

Now Wong can enjoy more than the alphabet while he adds up his awards that include a $100 savings bond, a $20 gift certificate and a $100 certificate from Subway sandwich shop, owned by Henry Patel.

&#8220You've got lunch for a year,” teased Wong's mother as she proudly watched her son accept the awards.

His mother is not the only person proud of the13-year-old's hard work and stellar spelling skills. Principal of St. Paul's School, Cathy Gaudagni, said that Wong is an outstanding student and a very nice person.

&#8220He does very well in all subjects and is strong in everything,” said Gaudagni. &#8220He'll be one of our valedictorians. We are very proud of him.”

With the spelling bee championship to add to his long list of accomplishments, Wong will continue his education at Redwood High School in the fall where his interest in spelling and mathematics will continue.

Kyla Seffing, a sixth grader at Pinkham Elementary School finished in second place and Dylan Woodbury, a seventh grader at St. Paul's tied for third place with fourth-grader, Joseph Maluyao from Golden Oak Elementary. All participants were awarded spelling bee t-shirts and various other prizes.

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